ZAGREB, Croatia (AP)Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova won a women’s World Cup slalom in tough race conditions on Tuesday for her fourth win in five races this season.
Mikaela Shiffrin finished five-tenths of a second behind in second place upon her return to competition following a positive COVID-19 test and missing two races last week.
Shiffrin, who was only cleared to race on Monday, was the only racer to finish within two seconds of Vlhova’s winning time. Slalom world champion Katharina Liensberger was 2.11 behind in third.
It was Vlhova’s third straight win in the traditional first slalom race of the calendar year, which Shiffrin had won four times between 2013 and 2019.
”It was really tough because conditions were not so perfect,” said Vlhova, who has won 11 of the last 17 World Cup slaloms. ”Also, Zagreb is really long, so when you are entering the last pitch, you start to feel your legs, so you have to, like, breathe again and re-start again.”
Vlhova extended her lead over Shiffrin in the discipline standings to 140 points having also won in Lienz six days ago, one of the two races Shiffrin missed while quarantining. The American remained in the overall lead, 115 points ahead of her Slovakian rival.
”I feel big confidence,” Vlhova said. ”It’s not easy winning in a row, there is lot of pressure from outside. But I like to have one big bubble around me and just to enjoy skiing.”
The soft snow surface on the Crveni Spust course and gusts whipping up eddies of leaves made for challenging conditions, and the race had to be interrupted after 17 starters in the second run as organizers removed the finish line banner for safety reasons amid the increasing winds.
Liensberger was one of many racers who lost considerable time, or even skied out, going through a hole in the snow surface about 15 seconds into the run. Shiffrin and Vlhova picked a wider line to avoid the obstacle and clear the next gate without problems, while winning about a second on most competitors.
Wendy Holdener, who was third after the opening run, also struggled at that spot and dropped to fourth, just ahead of Ali Nullmeyer. The Canadian skier posted the fastest second-run time and improved from 17th for her career-best result.
At least seven racers, including three from the Swiss team, had to sit out the event after testing positive for COVID-19, which requires a 10-day quarantine and a negative test before being allowed back onto the circuit.
No spectators were allowed at the race on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, which usually is among the best-visited events on the women’s calendar.
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